For athletes, there is no greater rush than playing a game well. It makes the early morning practices, the hill sprints, and the sore muscles all have a purpose. There is something about playing on a team that really brings out the best in people. When you look at the scoreboard and know—whatever the end result is—that you have played your hardest, it all makes sense. This is everything you have worked for—it's the reason you pushed through all those tough practices.
However, there is a huge difference between playing in high school and playing on a college varsity team. Only the best players are recruited for big-name schools, and most of those players are stuck on the bench for their entire freshman year.
At Christendom, one of the best things about the college's manageable size is that students are not only able to get a rigorous Catholic liberal arts education, but can play sports competitively—even as freshmen.
Freshmen athletes are able to jump into fall sports. Pictured Above are, L–R: Tom Herlihy (cross country, baseball), James Foeckler (soccer), Jon Messing (rugby, baseball), Kate Santschi (soccer), Michaela Pennefather (volleyball), and Sarah Papp (cross country).
James Foeckler had an impressive high school soccer career, entering his freshman year at Christendom as one of the winners of the Thomas. S. Vander Woude Memorial Scholarship.
"Playing at Christendom is a lot of fun. It's a lot of work, but we've had a really successful season despite having 12 freshmen on the team," said Foeckler. "At bigger schools, it's a lot harder to play as a freshman, but at Christendom, especially with Coach Gutierrez, being on the soccer team really draws out the best in the players."
He quickly became one of the best players on the team, placing high in the national standings for assists, goals scored, and overall points for the season.
On the cross-country track, the men's and women's teams sent runners to the USCAA Nationals competition. And the team is only in its second year of existence. One of the six runners to compete in Nationals was a freshman, Sarah Papp.
"My teammates are some of the most determined and kind people I've had the chance to meet, and their dedication helped me to become more focused as well," said Papp, who probably would not have been able to run competitively as a freshman had she attended another college.
Freshman and high school football star Jon Messing is quickly becoming a real threat on the rugby team—despite never having played the sport before. "The transition
from football to rugby was a bit different from what I had expected," said Messing, "but the team itself is awesome. It's amazing to be around a group of solid Catholic guys working together to beat teams that should be able to easily beat us. I am so happy that I can actually play, and really contribute, even as a freshman."
Messing has adapted extremely well. He was part of the squad that dramatically tied with Duke University in the first game of the year, coming back from behind with only two minutes left in the game, and defeated William & Mary and the University of Richmond.
These students highlight a common experience for Christendom athletes. Unlike at most schools, Christendom freshmen have the chance to make a name for themselves from day one when they set foot on campus. The college's size allows freshmen the unique opportunity to excel in their academic, social, and spiritual pursuits, while competing at a high-level in their athletic pursuits—regardless of their experience—and pushes them to strive for greatness and become the best athletes they can be.
This story appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Instaurare. Subscribe today!